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Toonhound presents...






British Movie Toons

        The Plague Dogs

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The Plague Dogs   (1982)
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producers: Nepenthe Productions
cel animation
      run time: 103 mins


    "Man's best friend hunted by their greatest enemy"

    Two confused and abused lab dogs - Snitter and Rowf - escape from a research
    facility in the Lake District. When word of their escape finally leaks out the
    authorities embark upon a large-scale pursuit. They suspect the canine pals to
    be carrying anthrax. The dogs, meanwhile, forge a friendship with a canny fox
    called the Tod, but the humans' pursuit is relentless. Freedom is tantalisingly
    close, but always just out of reach. The outcome is never in doubt, inevitable
    and as bleak as the landscape in which the chase is conducted...

    Richard Adams' stark tale is translated into film by the team who brought
    us Watership Down. As before, naturalism is the key word here, with
    every effort taken to make the animals, people and locations look and
    behave as real as possible. The film took two years to animate, with production
    duties shared between teams in Los Angeles and London. In the original novel,
    the dogs share almost equal stoytime with the pursuing White Coats. For the
    film version, the production team cleverly focus on Snitter and Rowf with the
    humans relegated to an extraneous threat, always  peripheral to the action.
    Indeed, we barely even glimpse a full face in the course of the film.

       The Plague Dogs - fleeing man   The Laboratory

    The $5m movie features the same water-washed and muted palette as
    Nepenthe's "Watership Down", but here the story and tone is necessarily bleaker
    with precious little relief from the gloom. The film's producer, Michael Rosen,
    wanted audiences to get inside the heads of his two abused lead characters.
    And he and his crew succeed admirably. However, the additional grimness and
    generally downbeat tone went on to hamstring "The Plague Dogs" commercial clout.
    "Watership Down" at least had the antics of the Germanic gull Kehaar and the
    "Bright Eyes" theme to lift its oppressive air for a while. Not so here. In the end
    "The Plague Dogs" was deemed to be simply too adult for children, whilst older
    moviegoers dismissed its arrival before discovering its mature themes and content.
    Indeed, even the film's original American distributors struggled to get their heads
    around the piece. After much discussion about its marketing and talk about
    re-dubbing the voices Rosen took the film back and distributed it himself
    through Nepenthe Productions.

    The problems with the film's commerciality actually continued to resurface on
    later video releases. Indeed a key American video edition features numerous
    edits excising some of the harder language and much of the threatening,
    or violent behaviour in a crude effort to make the film more "child-friendly" -
    completely at odds with the film's ideals. Animal testing is a nasty business
    which simply can not, and in the fim maker's eyes, should not be watered
    down for safe consumer consumption.

      The Plague Dogs  - on the run

    "The Plague Dogs" was way ahead of its time, both stylistically and thematically.
    On the visual side, today's audiences are far more excepting of oblique or
    alternative animation design and construction. And the film's main themes have
    even grater resonance today given the recent outbreaks of disease in the British
    countryside, anthrax scares and the high profile campaigning against animal
    testing and genetic experimentation. Here is a brave and moving film which
    refuses to hide behind any form of frivolity or bright eyed genre stereotype.
    It demands your full attention, and rewards those who are patient enough
    with an absorbing, intelligent and provocative story questioning man's
    inhumanity to his animal 'friends'. See it and weep.


     Plague Dogs on DVD

      UK DVD 
The Plague Dogs
                  Region 2 / Universal / September 2002

      USA DVD 
The Plague Dogs
                  Region 1 (edited version) / Trinity Home Ent / August 2004


     director:          Martin Rosen
     producer:      Martin Rosen
     anim dir:       Tony Guy, Colin White
     writer:           Martin Rosen
                         from the novel by Richard Adams
     music:           Patrick Gleeson
                          "Time and Tide" by Alan Price
     prod des:       Gordon Harrison
     voices:          John Hurt (Snitter)
                         Christopher Benjamin (Rowf)
                         James Bolam (The Tod)
                         Warren Mitchell (Tyson / Wag)
                         Nigel Hawthorne (Dr. Robert Boycott)
                         Geoffrey Mathews (Farmer)
                         Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Farmer's Wife)
                         Bernard Hepton (Stephen Powell)
                         Brian Stirner (Lab. Asst.)
                         Judy Geeson (Pekinese)
                         Malcom Terris (Robert)
                         Penelope Lee (Lynn Driver)
                         John Bennet (Don)
                         Bill Maynard (Editor)
                         John Franklyn-Robbins (Williamson)
                         Patrick Stewart (Major)
                         Dandy Nichols (Phyllis)
                         Rosemary Leach (Vera)
Philip Locke (1st Civil Servant) 
                         Brian Spink (2nd Civil Servant)
                         Tony Church (3rd Civil Servant)
                         Anthony Valentine (4th Civil Servant - voice only) 
                         William Lucas (5th Civil Servant - voice only) 

                         Percy Edwards (animal vocalisations)


      On the web

       Plague Dogs Fan-site
       Here's an excellent, informative place with plenty of images and
       discussion, details of the various edits, book-to-film changes
       and more...

       Steward's Pages

       And here are Steward's excellent pages...

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© Nepenthe Productions 1982 / F2006